Eagles' strong defensive effort goes to waste
Donnie Avery pulled in seven balls for 141 yards Thursday night, with the most important coming on a key 3rd-and-10 with 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. (AP)
Put aside the turnovers -- all five of them -- for a moment.
Put aside the missed field goal and the ugly punts and the long kickoff return by Quintin Demps -- yep that Quintin Demps (at least it wasn't Macho Harris).
Put aside the shaky offensive line play and the one penalty that the ref announced like this: "False start, everybody but the center."
Put all of that aside for a moment and focus on this:
LeSean McCoy had just broken a 41-yard TD to continue his historic start (see story) and bring the Eagles within seven, at 23-16, early in the fourth quarter. Then the Eagles' defense, the night's lone bright spot despite being given little time to rest by the erratic offense, had the Chiefs pinned at their own 5.
After Jamaal Charles rushed for three yards on first down, Brandon Graham got the three yards back and fired up the fans by sacking Alex Smith.
So it's 3rd-and-10, 10 minutes and 10 seconds left in the game, ball on the KC 5 and the Eagles down seven.
"We knew that was a big drive," Smith said. "Our defense had been on the field a lot before that. We hadn't done much with the ball the last few series before that and knew we needed to change some field position. We needed to eat up some clock. We needed to give our defense a rest."
Smith drops back, has a perfect pocket protecting him, and fires. Bradley Fletcher is there. Nate Allen has a bead on it. For a split-second, it looks like Allen is going to pick it off at the 20 and possibly run for the game-tying score.
But only for a split second.
The ball lands in the hands of -- who else? -- Donnie Avery for 15 yards. First down. Whooosh, the air goes out of the Linc.
"Pretty close. Swiped at it. Missed it. That's about it. Things like that happen," Allen said.
"We knew we needed that one. Just to get off the field -- that series, that drive, get off the field as fast as we could and get the ball back in the offense's hands."
Smith completed 22 of 35 passes for 273 yards in the Chiefs' 26-16 victory over the Eagles on Thursday night. Seven of those 22 went to Avery, who continued to find open spaces under the Eagles' secondary and piled up 141 yards receiving.
"They get a lot of vertical routes, and then they slip him underneath everything, because the underneath guys are dropping," Allen said. "They did a great job of that."
But that completion and those 15 yards were the most important. Kansas City drove to the Eagles' 20, and Ryan Succup hit a 38-yard field goal.
"It was a big play, a big play in the game," Smith said. "I thought Avery made a great catch, a great job coming back to the ball."
From there, the Chiefs ran the ball through the Eagles' (tired?) defense and earned a big win for their head coach.
"It was big," Andy Reid said of that drive. "The O-line the last couple of weeks -- they're a young bunch, I mean real young. But they kind of pulled it together at the end of each game the last couple of weeks."
Although the Eagles' D pulled it together after being thrashed by the Chargers -- "We were itching to get that bad taste out of our mouth," Allen said -- it once against faltered at the finish.
And for that, Chip Kelly blames his offense, which ran 63 plays and was on the field for only 20:53 compared to 77 and 39:07 for the Chiefs.
"That falls on us offensively from a responsibility standpoint," Kelly said. "I've always said it's about play-running, and we're not running enough plays. We just can't go out there and throw an interception that's returned for a touchdown and then get a drive going and put the ball on the ground. We call them self-inflicted wounds. We've got way too many of them to be a successful football team."
The more things change ...